Asian American Representation in Media
by Michelle Chan
In a world where society seems to be progressing faster than ever, the media is evidently regressing in terms of diversity. Think about it: you turn on the TV, and notice an extensive lack of Asian American representation. And then you begin to wonder: Why don’t I see many Asian Americans in mainstream media?
With shows like Quantico to Fresh off the Boat, television is the only form of media that exhibits the Asian American community. But even if the slightest representation is established, there’s a high chance that they’re East Asians. East Asian Americans, particularly Chinese and Japanese Americans, are more prevalent in media than Southeast Asian Americans because, for some odd reason, many people believe that Asia consists merely of Chinese and Japanese ethnicities. Southeast Asians, such as Burmese and Filipino people, therefore, have less of an opportunity to thrive in American media.
Though our society is arguably said to be “progressing towards equality,” there are many examples that tell otherwise. Take the movie Aloha, for example. The film, publically released this past year, encompasses a heterosexual love story between two white characters set in a majority white environment. But did I mention that it’s set in Hawaii, where 60% of its population are Asian American Pacific Islanders? Moreover, one of the main characters, Captain Allison Ng (described as half Caucasian, a quarter Hawaiian, and a quarter Chinese) is played by the one and only Emma Stone, who, if it isn’t obvious enough, has absolutely no Asian blood. The point is that mainstream media continues to misrepresent the Asian American population in the limelight but also has the audacity to replace Asian characters with white actors. As if there aren’t any available Asian actors in Hollywood.
What is Asian American representation, exactly? Unlike popular belief that spotlighting one or two people of color in media satisfies the definition of racial representation, it is actually spotlighting people of color accurately. And, no, stereotypes do not count. Asian representation, therefore, is the act of portraying Asians and Pacific Islanders without conforming to popular myths. Its importance is not to be politically correct, however, it is to give minority races an identity in society.
Despite the apparent lack of representation in mainstream media, there seems to be quite a growing population of Asian representation in other spotlights. One name you might be familiar with is “Wong Fu Productions,” an Asian American independent film production company founded by Philip Wang, Ted Fu, and Wesley Chan. With over 2.4 million subscribers on Youtube and ten years of experience, this company has stuck to their value of representing Asian Americans as main characters in their short films.
So the next time you turn on the TV, take notice of how much racial representation is prevalent in media. What would you like to see?